Family remembers loved one lost to suicide with inaugural Mental Health Walk

Families marched through Swan Creek Park in Athens today, one year after 48-year-old Shannon Long's death.
Published: Jul. 8, 2022 at 10:37 PM CDT
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ATHENS, Ala. (WAFF) - Many in Athens remembered 48-year-old Shannon Long on July 8, a son, father, and grandfather who passed away one year ago from suicide.

His family wants to make sure no one else loses a loved one to suicide. They held the inaugural Mental Health Walk.

People across the community came together to march through Swan Creek Park.

His family is making sure didn’t die in vain, specially his daughter Kaitlin, who lost her father at a young age.

“A lot of people loved him and he’s talked about constantly,” said Kaitlin. “He always brightens up a room and has a smile on his face.”

Kaitlin says they wanted to use that joy as inspiration for the walk. The general mood wasn’t solemn or sad. There was a blow-up slide, food trucks and cornhole.

Amber Kelley organized the event.

“From 4 p.m., we’re just where to have fun,” said Kelley. “we just want people to come out. We want them to know they’re worth breathing that they’re loved and wanted.”

They say Shannon started to spiral a few months before he died. Kelley wants to make sure other families know the warning signs for suicide.

They’re raising money for organizations like Wellstone and Crisis Services of North Alabama.

They had booths set up to provide that information. Paola Rios with Central North Alabama Health Services Inc. says it’s important to get those resources out to men especially.

“I think that oftentimes even in overall healthcare, men tend to seek services less than women,” said Rios. “We see that so it’s important that anyone including men get the help they need.”

They know this won’t bring Shannon back but maybe it could save another life.

“it feels great knowing that we can help and have a lot of people come support i hope if we could change one life that would be amazing because I hope no one else loses anyone to suicide.”

Kelley says she plans on making this Mental Health Walk an annual event.

If you or a loved one is struggling with their mental health call Crisis Services of North Alabama at (256) 716-1000 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

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